PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
So I’m offering a second helping of Wales and Coronavirus, with perhaps an entertaining digression or twa.
THE CASE OF THE MISSING TESTING KITS
Politicians have been under the spotlight in this crisis, which will return to haunt some of them. For many politicos are being exposed as liars, others as incompetents, while the worst of them are both, and more.
Let’s take the case of the testing kits that the ‘Welsh Government’ insists it ordered from Roche, an order that it’s alleged was cancelled by the Swiss pharma giant when the UK government got involved and put in a bigger order.
A few things strike me as odd about this incident. First, the ‘Welsh Government’ has produced no evidence of an order being placed, let alone accepted. Second, after an initial flurry of outrage London’s local management team seems to have fallen into line, leaving Drakewell looking increasingly like a compliant ‘regional leader’ in a totalitarian state.
But let’s be generous, and assume that even if the order wasn’t actually placed, that negotiations were at least underway. That being so, was Whitehall tipped off about the ‘Welsh Government’ – for once! – looking up to the job, even upstaging BoJo’s gang?
This might explain why the deal between the ‘Welsh Government’ and Roche fell through. But if so, who tipped off Whitehall?
My money would be on civil servants, more specifically, senior civil servants of the type appointed by London and answering to their masters in the Great Wen. And when they’re not carrying clecks they’re implementing orders from London, often dressed up as ‘Welsh legislation’.
But even before the Roche incident, we now know that an offer was made in early March to carry out testing, but the offer has been ignored, according to Professor Andrew Godkin of the School of Medicine in Cardiff.
The BBC reported:
‘Prof Godkin, who leads the School of Medicine, said Wales has significant laboratory capacity to help ramp up the numbers of Covid-19 tests.
“It’s been deeply frustrating. We flagged up what was available about three weeks ago,” he said.
“We certainly have the capacity here and in Cardiff University to really offer… a considerable number of tests.”‘
Why hasn’t this offer, from an institution within miles of Corruption Bay, been taken up?
Whatever the truth about the testing kits from Roche, the ‘Welsh Government’ has clearly surrendered control to Downing Street. With the result that when it comes to testing kits, personal protection equipment (PPE), Wales will get whatever London decides.
And so, here we are, a month or more into this crisis, and front line staff in our health service are still waiting for tests and PPE. The conclusion I draw is that the ‘Welsh Government’ has chosen not to act contrary to London diktats, even when to do so would be best for Wales.
Which makes devolution rather pointless.
Though of course, it could all be a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick. For ‘Welsh’ Labour likes nothing more than to blame somebody else for anything that goes wrong. By surrendering control over the fight against coronavirus to London Cardiff Bay might be seen as getting itself off the hook.
ANOTHER WEEKEND INFLUX
While it wasn’t as bad as the previous weekend there was still a sizeable influx of selfish idiots who just don’t care about risking other people’s lives. Liz Saville Roberts MP even reported that second home owners were sharing information on how to avoid police checks, like it was some game.
As that tweet from LSR suggests, the police seem to have been more proactive this weekend, stopping people and asking them where they were going, and why.
The evidence popped up regularly on Twitter, with reports of vehicles also being stopped on Dyfi Bridge at Machynlleth (a boundary between GogPlod and Dyfed Powys), and also around Bala.
But this tweet put out on Friday evening by a councillor on Ynys Môn would suggest that nothing was being done on the bridges linking the island with the mainland.
Perhaps his cri de coeur was answered, for the following day police were out, but getting in their way was the new MP for the island, Virginia Crosbie. For as we know, Tory politicians can’t resist a photo opp with police. (Though of course there are 20,000 fewer cops since 2010.)
Though you have admire her brass neck. To begin with, Conservatives love holiday homes, most Tory MPs have at least one. And I guarantee that Crosbie garnered quite a few votes from holiday home-owning families that live in safe Tory seats, and could afford to vote from their holiday homes in a marginal constituency like Ynys Môn.
Though the ultimate hypocrisy was her claim that it’s all being done to help the NHS. The health service would be coping a hell of a lot better with this pandemic if her party had put more money in over recent years.
If those clowns in London she regards as the government could just arrange for front-line health staff to be tested, and to have PPE, she’d look less like a politician exploiting global misery to promote herself.
Though maybe I’m being a bit harsh, for we mustn’t use coronavirus to score political points, must we? Though if that’s the case, then someone should have told ‘Barry’ Lee Waters, Sosban’s AM.
Plaid Cymru put out a statement over the weekend urging people to stay at home, and when it was retweeted by ITV Wales’ Welsh political editor, Adrian Masters, Waters jumped in with both feet to infer that Plaid was being anti-English.
Obviously the boy hadn’t read the full statement that Adrian Masters had so helpfully retweeted. (Quelle twat! as we used to say in Swansea.) Though Barry’s contribution reminds us of another political party that has problems with holiday homes. His own.
Which is strange, for we should expect any socialist or social democratic party to be opposed to holiday homes on a number of grounds, but not ‘Welsh’ Labour, which has tied itself up in all sorts of knots.
Mainly because from a ‘Welsh’ Labour perspective holiday homes is a ‘nashie’ issue, the kind of thing that people like me are supposed to get vexed about. Which is true, up to a point, I suppose, but it’s hardly an obsession with me, as you’ll realise from searching this blog.
But because that’s how Labour in Wales frames it, doing anything to discourage the growth in the number of holiday homes is seen as a concession to political opponents.
The collateral damage of hard-working local people priced out of the property market, and the destruction of Welsh communities and even Welsh identity, is acceptable because by and large the areas worst affected don’t vote Labour.
Which in practical terms, results in ‘Welsh’ Labour being as indulgent towards holiday homes as the Conservative and Unionist Party.
While Plaid Cymru’s request was for no one to travel unnecessarily, Visit Wales still has trouble telling tourists and holiday home owners to stay out, as this tweet put out on Saturday makes clear. They can’t quite bring themselves to say, ‘Don’t travel INTO Wales’.
We’ve had two weekends of ignored lockdown and now we face Easter weekend, for which I’m sure the police are preparing. Though I would suggest that rather than random checks all over the country, or responding to tweets such as that from Councillor Carwyn Jones, checks on the border would be more effective.
Wales is a small country with a limited number of decent, cross-border roads, maybe a dozen in all. You’ll see that I’ve made three additions to the motorway and trunk road map reproduced below. All three cross the border into Powys, with the A44 being the only road into Aberystwyth from the east, the A489 links with the A470 heading north towards Snowdonia, and the A438 runs down to the Beacons.
Just having a police presence from Friday morning on these roads where they cross the border would have an effect. Pulling over motor homes and towed caravans would obviously make sense, as would stopping anyone who looks a bit ‘touristy’.
And if such a tactic proves successful then we could make it permanent!
We’ve all heard reports of coronavirus being used to bump up prices by shysters like Mike Ashley of Sports Direct, but it’s not just the usual suspects, as I found out last week.
I was looking for a new scanner/printer and after deciding on the model I wanted I went online to compare prices. To my surprise – as I’ve never bought from them before – John Lewis Partnership offered the best deal. So I ordered my machine, an Epson ET-7750 at £549.
I then had an e-mail telling me that the order was being processed. Before, bizarrely, receiving another e-mail saying that my contact details had been changed. Not by me they hadn’t! This was followed by, ‘We are unable to process your order’, and then a cancellation.
Curious, I went to the John Lewis website. The machine I’d ordered was still there of course – but the asking price had gone up by £50 since I’d placed my order!
Obviously I had to find another supplier. I went to one I’d never heard of before, Box.
I paid just over £10 more than I’d originally paid John Lewis, but at least there was no nonsense about ‘changed details’, and it even arrived on Saturday, not on Monday as I’d expected.
But being the curious bugger I am, after placing my order I went back to the Box website – and saw that the price had increased by £30 in less than 24 hours!
It seems obvious to me that with so many stores closed online retailers feel they can charge whatever they like. So if you’re shopping online – be careful!
‘ALL PULLING TOGETHER’
In a number of ways it seems that the UK government is using the coronavirus crisis to override devolved administrations and possibly undermine devolution. How far this will go remains to be seen.
For coronavirus is now up there with World War II, the monarchy, World Cup 1966, the Falklands, the death of Diana, Only Fools and Horses, and the 2012 Olympics, as a ‘shared experience’. Something that we are expected to believe transcends national and regional differences, and makes distinctions of class, religion and of course, politics irrelevant.
Coronavirus will be milked for all it’s worth, and of course it explains why Her Maj made an address to the Commonwealth on Sunday. (You missed it!)
The problem is of course, that we aren’t ‘all in it together’.
Let us visualise a member of the Cheshire Set, with private health care, and let’s call him Dominic. Let’s further assume that he drives down in his Merc to spend a weekend in his holiday home, and while in Wales he infects old Mrs Roberts with Covid-19 then fucks off back to his big house in Wilmslow before Mrs Roberts dies.
Yeah, I suppose that could be a shared experience; cos Dom must have had coronavirus for him to infect Mrs Roberts. Stands to reason.
And just as Hitler had Versailles, those arseholes in London feel they too must have someone to blame, or a distraction. But with so much Chinese money sloshing about in London they can’t imitate their orange friend in Washington and call it the ‘Chinese Virus’ . . . so they pick on footballers!
Matt Hancock, the uninspiring Health Secretary in the UK government, has demanded that footballers give up a chunk of their earnings in the fight against coronavirus. Specifically, for hospices.
Perhaps a case could be made for paying these players less because football, like all other sports, has been suspended until the crisis has passed. But if the issue is money, then a few hundred footballers taking a pay cut isn’t going to make much difference. And how would the money be collected? Or even assessed? If their clubs pay them less is Hancock planning to ask Liverpool and Manchester City and Arsenal for whatever they’re not paying Salah, de Bruyne, Lacazette and the rest?
But if money is the issue, then a hell of a lot more could be raised from the Tories’ tax-avoiding friends, with their tax haven companies, as Gary Lineker has suggested. (There’s no, ‘if they possibly can’ about it, Gary. They definitely can!)
Staying with the beautiful game, why am I and millions of others still having to pay Sky, BT, Premier Sports and Amazon Prime for football that’s not being played? Will Hancock talk to Rupert Murdoch and others to get our subscriptions suspended until football resumes? Will he hell!
But it’s not a question of money. No amount of money collected now can make much difference in the fight against coronavirus. The problems in the NHS are structural and of long standing. The money should have been invested years ago, over the last few decades in fact.
Which makes having a pop at footballers a cheap publicity stunt from a cheap politician.
Another ‘national treasure’ recruited in the fight against coronavirus and for British unity is Florence Nightingale. The new emergency hospitals in England have been named after her, and of course the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, home to the Welsh Rugby Union, has followed NHS England’s lead.
But in Glasgow the emergency hospital was named after Louisa Jordan, a WW1 nurse from Maryhill, who died working in Serbia. She is still fondly remembered by the Serbs. (Serbia suffered more casualties per capita than any other country.)
This decision has outraged those who wear Union Jack underpants beneath their kilts and support a certain football club. One such was former Labour MP Douglas Alexander, who detected ‘small-minded nationalism’ at work.
To believe Douglas Alexander, naming a hospital in Glasgow after a woman from that city who lost her life helping others is wrong, but to name it after a woman who did a great job of self-promotion in one of Britain’s countless 19th century colonialist adventures, but who has no connections with Scotland, is the right thing to do.
Here, as with Barry Lee Waters, we see the BritNat mind at work. Scottish or Welsh nationalism (bad) is detected in the most harmless gesture, but it would be blind to British nationalism (good) if London sent in the tanks and started arresting people.
Coronavirus is having strange effects. In this posting I’ve found myself defending Plaid Cymru and agreeing with Gary Lineker.
Regular readers will know that I am no friend to Plaid Cymru; but what is not so well known is that I was no fan of Lineker the footballer, I think he ruins Match of the Day with the faux mateyness, and I detest even more his liberal pontificating on social media.
But there you go, these are not normal times. And the worst is yet to come, in terms of deaths, and in disruption to what were our everyday lives.
Political leadership in both London and Cardiff has failed us. The economy is already severely damaged, house prices will collapse, savings and investments will suffer, and by this time next year our lives could be framed by very different political and economic paradigms.
There is no going back to things as they were pre Covid-19. That system has been found wanting. Once the worst of coronavirus is behind us Wales must have a fresh start. And that can only mean independence.
♦ end ♦